There's fake news, and then there's fake analysis. Jeremy Peters at the New York Times published a particularly odious example of the latter ("Reverence for Putin on the Right Buys Trump Cover") Friday evening (for Saturday's print edition).
Longtime blogger and particularly effective Time critic Tom Maguire had this succinct but understated take: "He (Peters) paints with far too broad a brush and inevitably splashes paint on himself." I'd say the Times reporter is swimming in the type of paint which can't wash off. This effort should permanently peg Peters as a shameless, unapologetic propagandist.
Peters' premise is that so many conservatives have "reverence" and "veneration" for Putin that they are effectively giving President Donald Trump's allegedly nefarious dealings with the Russian leader and his country a pass on that basis. Even in the context of the media's all-consuming Trump-Russia obsession, this is an especially pungent, steaming pile of horse manure.
In a tweet Peters posted after a pollster criticized him (HT Twitchy) for fabricating the idea that conservatives in general have had a long-standing "reverence" for Putin — a position absolutely not supported by polling history — the reporter wants us to believe that what he has published is definitive and irrefutable:
Peters clearly has a hard time with basic math.
His writeup has a dozen names (besides Trump). But only seven of them were specific examples of individuals describing Putin with alleged "veneration."
Here is the complete list of every single person except Donald Trump himself identified as having input into Peters' pathetic prose (alleged Putin admirers bolded):
- Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — dishonestly tagged as a Putin admirer.
- Experienced national security adviser K.T. MacFarland — dishonestly tagged as a Putin admirer.
- Angela Stent, "director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University" — criticizes conservatives who allegedly admire Putin.
- Leading radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh — dishonestly tagged as a Putin admirer.
- Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle — dishonestly tagged as a Putin admirer.
- Stuart Stevens, a former adviser to 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — criticizes conservatives who allegedly admire Putin.
- 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin — dishonestly tagged as a Putin admirer.
- Fox News and talk radio host Sean Hannity — included only because he interviewed Palin. Peters did not describe any of Hannity's specific views on Putin.
- Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters — criticizes conservatives who allegedly admire Putin.
- William (Bill) Kristol, the editor at large of the conservative Weekly Standard — criticizes conservatives who allegedly admire Putin.
- Evangelical Christian leader Franklin Graham — dishonestly tagged as a Putin admirer.
- Conservative pundit and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan — dishonestly tagged as a Putin admirer.
None of Peters' seven examples of alleged Putin "veneration" survive genuine scrutiny.
Maguire nailed down four of them: Giuliani, MacFarland, Palin, and Limbaugh.
Let's look at how pathetic bordering on pathological Peters was in criticizing Giuliani:
Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, gushed in 2014.
The reporter's link is to a YouTube video from a Rachel Maddow MSNBC broadcast. It shows that Giuliani was criticizing President Barack Obama's decision-making sloth, in the process noting that Putin, unlike Obama, wasn't a serial ditherer. Maddow dishonestly claimed that the former Gotham mayor was "rallying around the Russian flag."
But as Maguire noted, the full interview transcript shows Giuliani observing that Obama's dithering forced him to go to Putin for a bailout in Syria:
First, we were going to do something to Syria, then [Obama] was going to act on his own, then he was going to get congressional approval. Then he wanted the U.K. U.K. said no. Then it looked like Congress was going to say no. Then he was going to go anyway. Then he decided not to do it. And finally, after five or six days of wringing his hands and thinking and thinking and thinking, he brings Putin in and makes Putin a hero.
Giuliani was not displaying "veneration" for Putin. He was making an unfortunately accurate observation that the bad-guy Russian President, whom he referred to later in the interview as a "bully," knew how to lead, while the alleged leader of the free world clearly did not.
Concerning the three others Maguire did not get to:
- Guilfoyle "wished Mr. Putin could be president of the United States for just 48 hours. That way, as she put it, 'Americans don’t have to worry and wake up in the morning fearful of a group that’s murderous and horrific like ISIS.'" Virtually every sentient human being on earth, which apparently doesn't include Peters, recognizes this as a scorching criticism of Barack Obama, and not as any kind of "reverence" directed at Putin. Guilfoyle was only noting, as Giuliani did, that the Russian President is decisive, and that Obama most assuredly was not.
- Graham, in Peters' words, "said in 2014 that Russia was doing more than the United States to protect its children." Graham's actual words: "Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue -- protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda -- Russia’s standard is higher than our own?" This was a sharp criticism directed at U.S. culture, and certainly not a "veneration" of Putin, who was, in Graham's view, merely doing what any responsible leader looking out for the long-term well-being of his nation would and should do.
- Buchanan is the only person Peters identified who gave a Putin a genuine compliment, claiming that "He is seeking to redefine the ‘Us vs. Them’ world conflict of the future as one in which conservatives, traditionalists, and nationalists of all continents and countries stand up against the cultural and ideological imperialism of what he sees as a decadent West." Unfortunately for Peters, who set the bar himself at "veneration," this statement doesn't have that quality.
Thus, contrary to Peters' tweeted assertion that he provided a "dozen" examples, he provided only seven, and none of them are even remotely in the neighborhood of the "veneration" described in the following paragraph:
... The veneration of Mr. Putin helps explain why revelations about Russia’s involvement in the election — including recent reports that members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle set up a meeting at which they expected a representative of the Russian government to give them incriminating information about Hillary Clinton — and Mr. Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge it, have barely penetrated the consciousness of the president’s conservative base.
Thus, if Peters, as he claims, has "many, many, more examples" which are similar to these, it's fair to contend that he has absolutely nothing.
In this Times reporter's view, millions upon millions of Americans don't care about "Russia’s involvement in the election" — in reality because it has yet to be definitively demonstrated, and which, even if it did exist, did not affect actual balloting — not because it has so far been the mother of all nothing-burgers, but because of the "veneration of Mr. Putin." It seems inconceivable that anyone, especially a journalist who covers politics, could be so delusional and utterly divorced from reality, but Jeremy Peters has managed it.
It would appear that Peters is either so convinced of his righteousness that he can't appreciate how fundamentally dishonest his effort is, or he knows exactly what he's doing and doesn't care.
Regardless of the reporter's motivations, the fact that his utterly fake analysis got past his editors at the Times means there might as well not be any. If drivel like this is the new standard of what's allowed through, Dean Baquet, the paper's Executive Editor, who is laying off or buying out roughly half of the paper's 100 copy editors in a downsizing move, should relieve them all of their duties.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.